Genetic variation, its assessment and implications to the conservation of seagrasses


M. Waycott


In a study of the widespread Australian endemic seagrass Posidonia australis, allozyme analysis identified a wide range in population genetic structure assessed using the multilocus genotype diversity statistic (DG). Values of DG between zero and one were obtained; however, RAPD analysis generally detected higher levels of diversity, where DG values were all greater than 0.5 (DG = 0.67 – 1). Some populations were allozymically monomorphic using allozyme analysis yet were highly polymorphic using RAPD analysis. The differences observed between methods, particularly among allozymically uniform populations, demonstrate the importance of choosing an appropriate method when assessing genotypic diversity. Different methods may reflect different historical aspects of population processes where allozymes reflect broader-scale gene flow and population establishment and DNA fingerprinting methods such as RAPDs may reflect fine-scale local recruitment events and shorter-term population processes. Using either method alone, particularly in genotypically depauperate organisms such as seagrasses and other clonal organisms, will be problematic in assessing their population genetic potential, a parameter being used by conservation managers to decide upon management strategies in rare and endangered organisms. It is recommended that the impact of disturbance assessed using genotypic diversity measures requires more than one technique to provide the most appropriate information for designing subsequent conservation strategies.